Dear Kuya E.

Dear Kuya E.,

It really sucks having to write this to you right now. Everything feels really heavy right now. There’s a part of me that wants to believe that I’m still sleeping and this is just some horrible nightmare. I’ll wake up and I’ll see you tweet about today being the last Giants game.

I found out this morning when my sister woke me up with a phone call. I thought it was going to be about me flying to San Diego this weekend. She sounded distressed, asking if what people were saying about you was true. Trying to gather my thoughts, I went to the only place that would confirm everything: facebook.

There I had my worst fears confirmed. As I scanned my newsfeed (which, by the way, as much as we’ve complained about it, worked out for a day like this), I saw post after post express sadness/ confusion/ disbelief/ appreciation for who you are. As each post passed by, any hope that this was just some kind of cruel joke crumbled away

But as the darkness of accepting your departure from this world entered, the light of your memory shined through each heartfelt sharing from your friends. In the end, that will overtake whatever sadness we feel. Because we know you gave everyone so much joy and happiness.

That was the funny part about you. You always wore dark clothing. You wouldn’t pretty up your opinions with flowery words. You were are real. You’re a big, intimidating Filipino dude with tats and piercings. But what you gave to people was far from darkness or fear. I will never forget your matching laugh, grin, and hugs. They were all big, warm, and truly genuine. Your honesty didn’t just come in the form of sharp criticisms, but in how much you loved, cared, and missed them. That’s what made you different from a lot of us. You always told people how you felt about them, without fear of being too vulnerable or looking like too much of a sap.

You embody some of the best characteristics of our community (community as in Filipino/ Fil-Am/ Asian/ Asian-Am/ theater arts, Bay Area/ etc. however you want). You didn’t need a college degree or formal letters before and after your name to prove your worth to the community you served. You proved to many of us that being present in the struggles of people is the most important thing. The youth you worked with didn’t treat you with respect because of some hierarchical or authoritarian relationship, but because they respected you as one of them. You embodied the South of Market immigrant community and the struggles they go through. At Bindlestiff. you helped remind us that theater should serve and be there for the under-served SOMA community. Especially when those of us from other parts of the world would forget.

Personally, I want to thank you for all you’ve done and will continue to do for me. You helped me get adjusted in my first few years here. As much Bay Area/ SF pride you have, you showed much love to us out-of-towners and never made me feel like an outsider. You helped look after me, especially after my sister moved back to San Diego. The lessons and discussions we’ve had over the years will stick with me for as long as I’m on this Earth.

We would spend days (literally) discussing politics (local and global), religion, music, films, theater, rants on stupidity and just general “fuckery”. Even if we didn’t agree on everything, we never let that ruin the foundation of unity and friendship we built. I’m grateful for our road trips to San Diego and you got to meet mine and my sister’s family.

Through all these emotions that have raced through my body today, I know the most important thing is continue the legacy you left us. We should always tell our folks that we love then, without fear or hesitation. We need to continue to fight for people and their basic needs. We should greet everyone with a big hug and smile. Because, as we’ve seen today, it makes a world of difference.

I really regret losing touch with you the past few years. I was looking forward to seeing you more with the re-opening of the theater.

Speaking of which, I am truly grateful and will always treasure being there with you the day Bindlestiff re-opened. The last thing we talked about was our excitement for the Family Reunion Show and the return of 8th Wonder. I remember telling you “I’ll see you at the Family Reunion”. Little did I know, it had a more significant meaning than just a show. The last direct contact I had with you was via instagram after I posted a picture of the Stiff. You said to me: “good times brother. We’re home.”

You’ve gone home, to where we’ve all come from. I’m sure I’ll see you there someday. To greet me with a giant hug and smile.

Your brother from this life till the next,

Lylito

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